As War and Peace was for Tolstoy, and the Mona Lisa was for da Vinci, so was the Piano Concerto #2 for Johannes Brahms. In his mid 40’s, all the elements of Brahms’ art came together to produce one of his most magnificent works. He takes us to the greatest heights, to Everest. And at the same time he takes us to the most intimate and warmly songful place as well. It is a work of grand architecture and mysterious inspiration.

After the disastrous reception of the First Piano Concerto, 20 years passed before Brahms attempted a second. During those intervening years, he polished his composition skills while writing two symphonies, two overtures, the Haydn Variations and many other compositions. Brahms began sketching themes for the work following his first trip to Italy in 1878. These ideas were put aside as he worked on the Violin Concerto in D Major and the composer didn’t return to the piano concerto for another three years. The score was completed in July 1881, now a four movement concerto that was nearly an hour in length. It premiered later that year in Budapest with Brahms as the soloist and was a great success. In the following months, the work was performed to the same enthusiasm in a dozen European cities. Such acclaim must have tasted sweet to Brahms after the failure of his previous piano concerto.

Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 in B Flat Major Opus 83

Movements 1 & 4
Emanuel Ax/Boston Symphony Orchestra/Bernard Haitink
SONY SK 03229

Movement 2
Sviatoslav Richter/Chicago Symphony Orchestra/Erich Leinsdorf
RCA Papillon Collections 6518-2-RG

Movement 3
Emil Gilels/Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Eugen Jochun
Deutsche Grammophon DGG 419 158-2